Bob Kurland provides us good start to our holiday weekend.
(1) He [the Pope] cannot speak as a private theologian but in his official capacity as vicar of Christ and head of the Church; (2) He must officially define a doctrine relating to faith or morals (unfortunately, the pope is not infallible when it comes to science, politics, weather, and the outcome of sporting events); and (3) The pronouncement must not be directed only to a single individual or particular group of people, but it must be promulgated for the benefit of the entire Church. —Patrick Madrid, The Papacy and Galileo.
Every judgment of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins. —St. Thomas Aquinas. III Quodlibet 27.
There has been much heat and just a little light engendered by Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical, Laudato Si. Unlike many who have either praised or condemned Laudato Si, I have read the whole work, not once but three times. What I propose to do in this post is to list, with minimal comment, the sections that I find laudatory (that’s a pun, son) and then in a second post, the parts that I find questionable or objectionable. The Encyclical is 184 pages, so it will be necessary to focus selectively on the material.
The Excellent Parts
When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities—to offer just a few examples—it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. 117
The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a Thou who addresses himself to another “thou.” 81.
I would stress the great importance of the family, which is “the place in which life—the gift of God—can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life”. 213
Pope Francis calls us on us to reject consumerism, not to rely solely on technology, and to focus on that which has human values.
Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. 47
“…while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” Quoting the Pontifical Council for Justice Peace (483). 50
Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. 81
The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. 106
It cannot be maintained that empirical science provides a complete explanation of life, the interplay of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would be to breach the limits imposed by its own methodology. If we reason only within the confines of the latter, little room would be left for aesthetic sensibility, poetry, or even reason’s ability to grasp the ultimate meaning and purpose of things. 199
Pope Francis calls on us to enter into a relationship with Christ in the Eucharist.
It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love. 236
The Parts That Are Excellent But Apt To Spoil
In the first sections of Laudato Si Pope Francis exhorts us to be one with nature and to realize God in His creation, emulating Saint Francis in his paean to Brother Sun and Sister Moon. There is much beautiful in these sections, and I emphasize with them. I recall the times more than 70 years ago when I lay underneath the big trees in Yosemite (as a summer Forest Service worker), or sat in the Griffith Planetarium marveling at the night sky in other times and other places.
He cites the works of past Popes who have been concerned about the environment, Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and quotes at length the remarks of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew:
At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs…” Quoting from Lecture at the Monastery of Ulstein. 9
I can’t quarrel with any of those statements. What concerns me, however, is that they are adopted and corrupted by those who do not believe in a Creating God, but instead worship the creation—Gaia, Mother Earth. We see the farmers in San Joaquin Valley in California struggling to produce food–their water supply has been diverted to the San Francisco Bay to preserve (presumably) a small fish, the snail darter. One extreme faction of the Green worshipers of Mother Earth would have human reproduction minimized or eliminated. Thank God, Pope Francis spoke against that.